Currently, Rio was in a jail cell in the royal castle.
After finding Kristina and Flora, the guards quickly took them into custody.
Then for some reason, Rio alone was arrested and thrown into a jail cell, dumbfounded.
Three days had already passed since then.
Given only the bare minimum amount of sleep and food, Rio spent the most of his days being interrogated.
Ever since coming here, Rio’s days were spent entirely in his jail cell.
Judging from how much time he probably slept, more than three fifths of each day was spent in interrogation.
“Spit out what you know.”
On the third day, the same question was asked for the umpteempth time.
Rio started feeling disgusted at the words he’d grown tired of.
“It’s like I said already. I just happened to be passing by when I saw those gi- Kristina-sama and Flora-sama being kidnapped and then rescued them. That’s all.”
As he was about to say “those girls” the interrogator’s expression became stern.
Realizing that and referring them respectfully, Rio testified the same thing while being fed up.
“Quit lying. Aren’t you a spy?”
The same chain of questions continued.
Rio promptly denied.
“Alright, for the time being, it’s recognized that you really did rescue Kristina-sama and Flora-sama. Though it’s a difficult story to believe.”
The interrogator began talking in a strangely theatrical tone.
“That’s why this interrogation has been done peacefully. However, if you keep making this troublesome, we’ll have to revise our methods.”
A prison environment, a long, drawn-out interrogation, and an interrogator emitting a daunting aura.
To the interrogator who called this ‘peaceful’, Rio responded with a certain kind of respect.
“Heh? What kind of methods, exactly?”
Rio smiled with a somewhat rebellious look in his eyes.
Thereupon the interrogator smiled back while grabbing Rio’s collar.
He then slammed Rio’s face into the desk.
The interrogator pulled up Rio’s head again, and slammed it back into the desk. Rio bit the inside of his mouth, resulting in blood.
He wanted to enhance his body to reduce the damage, but he couldn’t easily manipulate his magic power.
It seemed the handcuffs on his wrists prevented him from controlling the magic power in his body.
“It’s rather strange ain’t it? Even if they were just a bunch of thugs, a kid like you beat four armed adults. What’s more, you’re an orphan with no training. Even if it was a surprise attack, it’s inconceivable.”
The interrogator shook his head, unable to understand at all.
“It’s like a lame, cheap play a plebeian came up with. Understand what I’m saying?”
While sending Rio a glare as if he had killed his parents, the interrogator raised Rio’s head by the hair and then struck a fist into Rio’s stomach.
Seeing a small groan escape Rio’s lips, the man smiled in satisfaction.
He probably had a sadistic personality.
Rio’s face was warped with the pain from his stomach.
“His Majesty the King has conferred you the most possible consideration. After all, you did rescue both royal princesses Kristina-sama and Flora-sama. It’s a matter of course.”
In that case, what’s with this poor treatment?
The rage inside Rio just kept piling up more.
“However, you’re also dangerous. Reason being as I’ve said until now, you’re suspicious. Way too suspicious. Being a little forceful is necessary to get you to talk. Understood?”
Grabbing his head, he peered at Rio’s face from close up.
The pair’s gazes aligned, but Rio displayed a foolish smile.
“Even if you say that, I don’t know what I don’t know.”
Rio immediately replied without a single doubt.
It was the truth after all, so there was nothing else to reply with.
“Humph, seems it was useless to try and get a criminal to understand His Majesty the King’s feelings. Well that’s fine. I’ll explain simply so even trash like you can understand.”
Saying that provokingly, the interrogator began caressing Rio’s face.
“In short, tell us who is the mastermind behind this incident. There’s one right? Some noble, for instance.”
Rio sighed for the umpteepth time at the incorrect deduction.
“Like I said, I don’t know. Ask the culprits, the-”
As Rio was still talking, the interrogator struck him in the face.
“The culprits are all dead. Killed. You’re the only one still alive.”
Rio was confused upon hearing those words.
For a moment, he thought it was because of the damage dealt by his attacks.
However, if there’s magic to heal one’s wounds, they should’ve used that in order to interrogate them, so he reconsidered.
“Why were they killed?”
“How should I know? They were poisoned. Seems there was poison in their food. Isn’t it great there was no poison in your food?”
Upon hearing the question, the interrogator told him the truth.
At those words, Rio suddenly felt a chill run through his whole body.
For the culprits to be so easily poisoned, the mastermind behind this incident would have had to infiltrate the royal castle.
But why was he not killed?
He then quickly realized even if Rio lived, it wouldn’t cause any problems.
It was because Rio didn’t have a single connection to the mastermind.
Even if Rio were interrogated, it wouldn’t mean a thing to him.
That’s why they didn’t take the risk of poisoning him.
In that case, he wouldn’t have to worry about his life.
However, that only applied in regards to those related to the mastermind.
If he messes something up, he might be killed by the country.
After all, although a suspect, this is a country that treats someone who rescued royalty in this manner.
At this rate, the torture would probably escalate.
It wouldn’t be odd if he were killed in the end.
(Dammit. At this rate I’m seriously going to die…)
Rio’s irritation grew along with his anxiety.
In hindsight, it really would’ve been better if he hadn’t saved Kristina and Flora.
If he hadn’t jumped in, he wouldn’t be receiving this torture right now.
This is the result of him acting on his emotions.
At the time he was severely conflicted, but it’s the selfish people who win in the end, is what he ended up thinking.
“Hmph, well then. Gotten scared now? You won’t have to fear death as long as you talk, you know?”
Rio snorted at the interrogator who said completely wrong things with a triumphant expression,
“As if that’s true.”
Seemingly not liking that attitude, the interrogator struck once again.
“Whose order was it? My boss’ opinion is that even if you don’t have a direct connection to those thugs, there should at least be an indirect one through the mastermind.”
Rio was getting really fed up.
He was speaking as if it’d be inconvenient if that wasn’t the case.
Rio thought he might’ve gotten caught up in a power struggle within the royal court.
It would explain a lot of things if that were the case.
The fact that the courier men were poisoned, Rio wasn’t poisoned, and this stubborn interrogation was going on to elicit a confession.
He calmly analyzed the situation with the given information.
Most likely, there were those with things to gain and lose from this kidnapping incident.
First, those that stood to benefit plotted this kidnap incident, and killed the culprits to erase the evidence.
And then those that stood to lose fell into a dilemma and were trying to get information from Rio.
If the king were the mastermind, then he would have to be a ruthless man who made pawns out of his own daughters, so while the possibility isn’t zero, it was still quite low.
Ergo, those who would gain were probably influential nobles other than the king.
In addition, for the king to treat someone who saved royalty this poorly was difficult to believe, so the possibility of him being someone who had something to lose was also low.
In that case, most likely those who stood to lose were other influential nobles other than the king.
Which means he got himself caught up in a conflict between influential nobles.
(Don’t screw with me.)
Rio displayed a smile tinged with madness in his mind.
The influential noble who stood to lose had the authority to have Rio forcefully questioned and is stubbornly having him interrogated.
In that case, as long as that person doesn’t think Rio is innocent, Rio won’t be released.
It was difficult for Rio to dispel that doubt.
As long as this stubborn interrogation that treated everything as suspicious continued in this fashion, there would be no end to it until he screws up or confesses a bunch of lies.
(If this influential noble was having his influence weakened because of the incident, it should be easy to turn things around to a scenario where I’m saved.)
There was no other choice but to bet on that.
“What kind of man was this person who gave you the order? Aren’t you actually some lower-ranking noble’s kid? You received combat training there, am I wrong?”
The interrogator relentlessly continued questioning ,while constantly provokingly slapping Rio’s cheeks with the pole in his hand.
Rio faced the interrogator and spat some saliva mixed with blood at him.
He wanted to dispel a little of the resentment he was feeling.
His fate probably wouldn’t change just from defying the man.
He shouldn’t be able to kill Rio without any orders.
Just as the enraged man was about to shout, the jail door opened.
Seeing the person who appeared from the door, the interrogator hurriedly corrected his posture.
“I-Imperial Knight Vice-Captain!”
“At ease. How’s the progress?”
The name of the man who appeared was Alfred Emar.
The second son of Earl Emar and the vice-captain of the imperial knights who protected royalty and the royal court.
Alfred waved his hand, saying that to the man as he entered the room, and glanced at Rio.
“Yes. Even when using a little force, he still refuses to speak at all. His attitude is rebellious and possesses a tenacious mind that’s unbelievable for a child.”
Hearing those words, Alfred lightly tapped his hand against his lips and began thinking.
“And so, uhm...the imperial knight captain is...?”
The interrogator asked, sounding as if worried about something.
“The captain is occupied with this incident. I came in his stead.”
Along with those words, Alfred’s face seemed to be slightly coloured in amazement..
After explaining the circumstances, Alfred motionlessly stared at Rio.
“Hmm, so you’re the orphan that rescued the princesses.”
Alfred’s majestic voice reverberated throughout the jail.
He wasn’t even in his 30’s yet, but the pressure he released carried an overpowering sensation that no ordinary person could handle.
But Rio ignored Alfred’s question.
Another imperial knight waiting beside Alfred came beating Rio while shouting.
Shifting his body to ward off the blow as much as possible, Rio sent a cold gaze back at the knight.
The knight was pressured by Rio’s gaze and instinctively retreated half a step.
“It’s fine.It can’t be helped when speaking to a vagabond youngster.”
Alfred gazed at Rio with evaluating eyes while Rio straightforwardly gazed back at Alfred.
After gazing at each other for several seconds, Alfred slowly whispered something as he seemed to have realized something.
“Fumu, bring that youngster to the training grounds outside.”
“Understood! You heard him. Move!”
The ordered interrogator forcefully pulled on the chain attached to the collar on Rio and handed the chain to another imperial knight.
Rio didn’t particularly resist and followed behind the man while being pulled along.
The jail was in an underground room, but the training grounds were outside above ground.
Bertram Kingdom’s royal castle’s appearance was not that of a small castle surrounded by a sturdy stone wall, but that of a highly artistic palace with white stone as the basis.
However, in order to defend against foreign enemy invasions, solid ramparts enclosing an expansive area and practical sections were constructed.
Extravagant and valuable articles were scattered everywhere within the castle walls. The place Rio was currently walking through was a wide corridor facing outside with pillars lined up at regular intervals and a scarlet carpet spread out on the floor.
While moving, the castle guards and servants scrutinized him.
The knight guiding him was moving along too quickly so he didn’t have a chance to carefully look around.
(This is like a monkey exhibit. No, even worse.)
The eyes that looked at Rio were mixed with sympathy and scorn.
It was the same expression shown by the seldomly appearing richly-dressed residents walking around town.
Upon meeting eyes, the servants quickly looked away.
Just like that, Rio was brought to the training grounds.
In the area were nobles serving royalty and their knights gathering as curious onlookers with the whole matter quickly becoming like some sort of show.
And so, having a mock sword handed to him, Rio moved to the center of the training grounds where he had to confront an imperial knight.
He had to fight without knowing what was going on, but nothing would happen even if he asks questions.
He decided to focus on the fight in front of him right now.
Fortunately the handcuffs that were preventing the movement of magic power were removed.
In the worst case, he could now enhance his physical abilities and forcefully break through and run away.
But running can wait until after the fight.
After all, it’d be best if things can be solved peacefully.
Taking a stance with a mock sword, clad in light metal armour and a shield, Rio’s opponent gazed down upon Rio while looking down at him.
The distance between the two was approximately 10 meters.
The imperial knight didn’t move from that spot as if he was saying “come at me.”
In response, Rio simply gazed silently at the imperial knight.
Rio was simply standing there holding the sword without taking any particular stance, but a portion of the quick-witted, experienced people sensed that Rio wasn’t an ordinary kid.
But the imperial knight confronting him thought Rio had no will to fight.
Clicking his tongue at Rio’s behavior, he decided to charge in himself.
Closing in ahead with considerable speed, he attacked with all his strength as if to mow down Rio’s torso.
He was carrying a mock sword for training.
However, from the power put into it, things wouldn’t end at just feeling pain if it hit.
Feeling clear hostility, Rio decided to dodge the imperial knight’s sword.
The attack was easily dodged by taking half a step to the side.
Thereupon the imperial knight’s face was coloured in shock.
And then those watching in the surroundings widened their eyes.
Enhancing his muscle and body strength with a minimal amount of magic power, Rio didn’t overlook the opportunity and instantly thrust the mock sword at the imperial knight’s throat.
The training grounds fell silent.
“W-wait! I simply let my guard down just now! I’ll do it seriously next time!”
Realizing his loss, the imperial knight hurriedly voiced his protests.
Finding his behavior amusing, the silence came to an end as the people at the training grounds began sniggering.
“Ku, ha, hahaha! To have lost to that child. The quality of the imperial knights sure have fallen. This can only be a disgrace.”
Said one of the nobles who was watching the mock battle from a corner of the training grounds, with an unnaturally loud voice to let everyone hear.
“Y-yes! Just as Duke Huguenot said. How outrageous, for one of the proud imperial knights to make that kind of excuse.”
Moreover, the nobles around that man began jeering in agreement with him.
A group of nobles separate from them listened to that while making sour expressions.
Rio expressionlessly watched the spectacle.
“Fool! Cool your head! Even if you let down your guard, a loss is a loss. A prestigious imperial knight should honestly accept his loss.”
Alfred scolded the imperial knight that Rio had faced.
As one would expect, he calmed down after hearing the vice-captain’s words and lowered his head in frustration.
Alfred switched his gaze to Rio’s direction.
He seemed to be thinking something as he looked at Rio, but soon spoke.
“Hmph, splendidly done. Boy. With this, the fact that you have the strength to have rescued Kristina-sama and Flora-sama has been proved.”
“What meaning is there in that?”
Rio asked without hesitation at Alfred’s somewhat high-handed words.
“Ah, you can personally receive His Majesty the King’s words of gratitude. There’s no greater honour. The evaluation of your affair will also be conducted then. A room will be prepared and you can leave jail.”
He forcefully spoke completely one-sidedly.
As if not doubting a single bit that the king was an absolute being and was a target of fear and awe to everyone.
That kind of feeling.
Leaving jail aside, he didn’t need the king’s words.
Alfred slightly frowned at Rio’s response that didn’t carry very much gratefulness.
Gazing at Rio with a look of despise, he spoke.
“Hmph, for today you can return to your prepared room. A mage will also be prepared to treat your wounds from the interrogation.”
“Thank you very much.”
Rio felt dissatisfaction since Alfred and the one who injured him belonged to the same organization, but tentatively conveyed his thanks.
Thus Rio was finally able to leave jail.
Receiving healing and taking a bath, he was then guided to his room.
Inside was a girl who was some years older than Rio.
She was somewhere in her late prepubescent years.
However, the girl’s beauty boasted a radiance that even a famed artist would never be able to recreate even in a lifetime.
Described in a single phrase, it would be “perfected beauty.”
The girl bowed deeply to Rio who entered the room and spoke after an exquisite pause.
“Pleased to meet you. I am called Aria Governess. Employed in this royal castle as a court lady apprentice and currently appointed to be of your assistance, Rio-sama. I look forward to serving you.”
The girl said with a blank face without a glimpse of emotion.
It was an unfaltering, lovely voice.
“Why thank you, treating one as myself so courteously. I am called Rio.”
Respectfully bowing, Rio returned the greeting seemingly without having taken note of the girl’s beauty.
Rio’s stance was that as long as the other party bears a courteous attitude, he would also treat them with a courteous attitude.
The same goes for the opposite.
While his gesture didn’t conform to this country’s way of showing manners, Rio’s considerably respectful attitude had Aria’s eyes coloured over surprised, although it was ever so slight. It wasn’t something noticeable without suitable powers of observation, but Rio noticed it.
It seemed that even though she appeared expressionless, she still has emotions.
“While in the royal castle, I will be serving beside Rio-sama. Feel free to command me anything should you have a request.”
However, Aria was quite skilled and didn’t show any further interest towards Rio.
“Then for now I have just one question. Will I be able to leave the royal castle shortly after receiving the words of His Majesty the King?”
“I apologize. I do not know anything about that matter. Your audience with His Majesty the King will be tomorrow. How Rio-sama will be dealt with will be announced at that time.”
In short, there’s a chance that from tomorrow on he will continue to be in a state of house arrest.
Rio felt disappointment at the expected answer.
But it wasn’t bad compared to when he was in jail.
“I see. Thank you very much.”
“No, that is simply my duty. If you have no further questions, shall I bring your meal?”
“That would be wonderful. By all means, thank you.”
Having not eaten anything decent for several days, Rio displayed a smile suitable for his age as he replied.
(Nothing to do anyway. Let’s just eat as much luxurious food as I can as my consolation.)
While bearing something grim in his mind, Rio thought about the royal court’s cooking that was probably being delivered.